Judge: Americans can be forced to decrypt their laptops


  1. quest7

    quest7 Well-Known Member

    American citizens can be ordered to decrypt their PGP-scrambled hard drives for police to peruse for incriminating files, a federal judge in Colorado ruled today in what could become a precedent-setting case.

    Judge Robert Blackburn ordered a Peyton, Colo., woman to decrypt the hard drive of a Toshiba laptop computer no later than February 21--or face the consequences including contempt of court. Oh, there's more in the link. Kind of long.

    PGP Desktop: Even the FBI can't crack it!

    (Credit: Symantec) Blackburn, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the Fifth Amendment posed no barrier to his decryption order. The Fifth Amendment says that nobody may be "compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," which has become known as the right to avoid self-incrimination.

    "I find and conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer," Blackburn wrote in a 10-page opinion today. He said the All Writs Act, which dates back to 1789 and has been used to require telephone companies to aid in surveillance, could be invoked in forcing decryption of hard drives as well.

    Because this involves a Fifth Amendment claim, Colorado prosecutors took the unusual step of seeking approval from headquarters in Washington, D.C.: On May 5, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer sent a letter to Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh saying "I hereby approve your request."

    The question of whether a criminal defendant can be legally compelled to cough up his encryption passphrase remains an unsettled one, with law review articles for at least the last 15 years arguing the merits of either approach. (A U.S. Justice Department attorney wrote an article in 1996, for instance, titled "Compelled Production of Plaintext and Keys.")

    Public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these. Failing to compel Ms. Fricosu amounts to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.

    Judge: Americans can be forced to decrypt their laptops | Privacy Inc. - CNET News

    Looks like a lot of laws will be modified for this new digital age, we live in.

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    EarlyMon likes this.
  2. quest7

    quest7 Well-Known Member

    The All Writs Act is a United States federal statute, codified at 28 U.S.C.
  3. TxGoat

    TxGoat Guest

    It would be interesting to see how many of our current laws our founding fathers would disapprove of.
    EarlyMon, B2L, argedion and 1 other person like this.
  4. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    I just read this article this afternoon...
    This is bull spit, Blackburn is a damn fool. The Fifth Amendment was built for this exact reason. If the drive contains incriminating evidence, then 5thAmend. says that you don't have to. I am governed by the Constitution, starting with 1-10, Congress and the Attorney General be damned. The founding fathers are rolling in their graves, and you know they would be all for crypto.

    No reason not to encrypt your drive with True Crypt and implement the plausible deniability. That was recommended in several of the comments and it makes perfect sense. And I especially like the whole "umm... I forgot" response. ;)

    Sorry, got a little heated there, just to warm you up on a cold winter night :D
    EarlyMon, B2L and argedion like this.
  5. Sulfur

    Sulfur Well-Known Member

    Total horse shit. TrueCrypt's plausible deniability features are looking a lot tastier.
  6. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Here Here! Bout time you lawless people are caught and brought before a judge while we toss your house, laptop and person. Preferably a hanging judge. I also favor in-session water boarding for witnesses that we think are lying under oath. Thumb screws, too.

    Someone mentioned TrueCrypt/Plausibility features:

    Plausible Deniability
    9to5cynic likes this.
  7. TxGoat

    TxGoat Guest

    I bet if someone posted the judge's address and other private information he'd be the first to cry about privacy violations.
    kingdeeray likes this.
  8. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Truecrypt needs to add a feature that completely scrambles all the data(permanently) if a certain password is entered, or if too many wrong password(user defined) have been entered.
    9to5cynic, kingdeeray and EarlyMon like this.
  9. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog Moderator

    Sounds to me it's time to run dariks boot& nuke.I would run it everyday until the day b4. Then hand it over
  10. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Well-Known Member

    Store private stuff elsewhere. USB drives are big enough.
  11. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Other rulings have gone the opposite way. It's kind of like asking someone to open a safe. I believe they can legally compel you to do so. They don't need the password or combination, just actual access to the files in question.
  12. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    No, I believe they can not. However, they can legally break in with a warrant.
  13. SamuraiBigEd

    SamuraiBigEd Under paid Sasquatch! Moderator

    This sucks, where am I going to hide all my illegally copied cute kitten pictures now?!?!?!?:p:D:rolleyes:

    Once again we have a judge who thinks he is doing right by the people but is really overstepping his bounds. I do have to admit being a little torn on this one though, on the one hand I don't want the 5th amendment violated but on the other I could see where this would be helpful in combating and prosecuting child pornography. The problem is we can't trust the system to not abuse the power, they need to follow the first 10 to the letter and stop trying to put their own interpretation on it.

    And one of the most damning things here is the name Lanny Breuer attached to it, it is amazing these idiots still have a job with the Fast and Furious scandal still in full bloom!
  14. OstrichSaK

    OstrichSaK Well-Known Member

    This is bull and I'm embarrassed that it was a Colorado judge who ruled this way. I will certainly keep this in mind when times comes to elect a judge & will make sure everyone I know knows about it when the time comes.
    kingdeeray likes this.
  15. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Well-Known Member

    Must have originally been from Colorado Springs. Peyton is close enough.
  16. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Not to play Lawyer, but if "they" prove you destroyed evidence, what then? Isn't it like burning documents before you go to court? Pissing off a prosecutor is one sure way to see joust how evil the evil side is.

    Not too hard to prove you might have eliminated evidence. Just sayin.
  17. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Easy solution. Make sure your encryption needs a keyfile.
  18. kingdeeray

    kingdeeray Well-Known Member

    Which program has such features? I'm curious to know
  19. chrlswltrs

    chrlswltrs Well-Known Member

    Personally I think it is pretty pointless anyways. If you have nothing to hide, you just open it up. If there is something incriminating you are probably going to jail anyways, so you just make a choice, go to jail for what is on your laptop or go to jail for keeping it encrypted. That is just my point of view.

    Now, I do not think you should be able to be ordered to decrypt anything. It is kind of like a court being able to read your mind in my opinion. If I had anything to hide I would find a way to permanently delete everything if needed, even remotely.

    I can already remotely find my phone via GPS, lock the phone with a password, and sound an alarm on my phone, all triggered by a SMS containing key words. I wish there was a way to trigger a factory reset if needed.
  20. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Eh.. that's not really the point. The "nothing to hide" is a fear tactic so many people are submitting to and it's really sickening.
  21. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    I am always amused at those--coppers or citizens--that always seem to think you are guilty if you invoke your right against self-incrimination. Or how some police will badger you when you use your "right to remain silent..."

    If you are arrested, you do not utter a single syllable.
  22. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog Moderator

    Maybe, however the Judge has gone to far. I would have my lawyers fight this. It is not my job to present them with evidence to prosecute me. If the Prosecutor has found it necessary for me to be charged with a crime then the burden of proof is on them not on me. If you don't have enough evidence for the courts to convict then why should we give it to them.
  23. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    When I was reading a truecrypt page (perhaps wikipeida - so take it with a grain of salt) one of the cites was a guy claiming that because the devs are so secretive, they could be CIA and there may be a backdoor to unlock the drive... lol.. Not sure if I buy that, but the conspiracy would make a nice story right?

    Also, seems like I read on the cnet link that they can make you give them the key to a safe, and they are treating the pgp key as a safe key. Still not something I agree with.

    And whoever mention that double passphrase ... very interesting. I was reading that it is possible with a couple of crypto methods to encode a message to two differernt people, as one file. Each person opens it with their key or passcode or whatever, and they get different messages. Very interesting, especially if applied to a truecrypt volume.

    The digital world is sure getting spicy isn't it? ;)
  24. Drhyde

    Drhyde Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't it depend on the crime you are being charged with? I'd imagine if I had committed murder and evidence was on the computer for whatever reason, then it would be a hell of a lot less jail time for obstruction of justice or contempt.

    Also, can't you do a factory reset remotely? I thought the feature was there since Froyo.
  25. quest7

    quest7 Well-Known Member

    Fifth Amendment issues can also arise if acknowledging ownership of a laptop or the existence of relevant documents is itself incriminating. But the police had recorded a phone call between Fricosu and her husband in which she seemed to acknowledge ownership of the laptop and to reference incriminating material on it.

    Ars Technica

    Oops :eek:

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